America

'Dim Views Of Afghan Wars'; Kids Ask Santa For Basics; Tax Vote In Senate

Good morning.

We've already posted on several things — from the tragedy off Christmas Island in the South Pacific, where nearly 30 asylum-seekers died when their boat went down in rough seas; to the stunning videos from Panama City, Fla., where a gunman opened fire at a school board meeting; to Time's announcement that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is its 2010 "person of the year."

Also this morning, there's word from the AP that state media in Iran are reporting that "two suicide bombers blew themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran on Wednesday, killing at least 38 people at a Shiite mourning ceremony."

And the Bureau of Labor Statistics just said that consumer prices rose only 0.1 percent in November from October.

Other stories making headlines include:

The New York Times — "Intelligence Reports Offer Dim Views Of Afghan War". "As President Obama prepares to release a review of American strategy in Afghanistan that will claim progress in the nine-year-old war there, two new classified intelligence reports offer a more negative assessment and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border."

— USA TODAY — "Kids Write Santa This Year For Basic Needs Instead Of Toys": "Santa Claus and his elves are seeing more heartbreaking letters this year as children cite their parents' economic troubles in their wish lists. U.S. Postal Service workers who handle letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole say more letters ask for basics — coats, socks and shoes — rather than Barbie dolls, video games and computers."

The Guardian — Julian Assange's Bail Challenged In High Court By Sweden": "The high court will hold a hearing tomorrow on a Swedish appeal against bail for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The 39-year-old Australian, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex crimes, was granted 200,000 (British pounds) bail yesterday but the Swedish authorities challenged the decision."

As for what's ahead later today:

— The Senate is expected to vote on (and approve) the tax package agreed to by President Obama and Congressional Republicans. Still to come: Debate in the House.

— The House is set to take up legislation that would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military.

— The Senate is due to begin debate on ratification of the new START missile treaty with Russia.

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